International Development Organisations on why to say “no” to orphanage volunteering

A number of leading development organisations are supporting a growing movement to discourage volunteering in orphanages abroad.

A position paper, entitled “Orphanage volunteering — Why to say no” has been developed by Better Volunteering Better Care and endorsed by 23 organisations. Better Volunteering Better Care is an initiative created in 2013 by Better Care Network and Save the Children UK, specifically to discourage orphanage volunteering and to promote responsible alternatives.

The paper has been formally released during the #StopOrphanTrips campaign — a month-long “blogging blitz” during May, aimed at raising awareness about the problems associated with the growing trend of volunteering with vulnerable children in orphanages abroad.

During the #StopOrphanTrips campaign a number of international development organisations also published blog posts on this topic, explaining their position, and demonstrating wide-spread support of the message.

Save the Children UK published a blog post on May 24th detailing why they don’t support orphanage volunteering:

“We’re worried about unskilled and untrained volunteers having access to extremely vulnerable children — and that the demand for this kind of volunteering is contributing to the harmful practice of building and funding orphanages.”

Read the full article.

VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), an international development organisation that works with volunteers to fight poverty and reduce inequality, also responded to the #StopOrphanTrips campaign stating:

VSO has been working with volunteers for nearly 60 years to help address poverty and social exclusion across the globe. We recognise the valuable and compelling academic research that demonstrates the detrimental impacts that volunteer contact can have on institutionalised children, which is why VSO does not support such placements.

VSO strongly welcome Better Volunteering Better Care campaign on this issue and we are ready to work with all organisations to ensure that orphanage trips are consigned to history.”

The Executive Director for Hope and Homes for Children, Delia Pop, also released a blog post on 8th May explaining why “It’s good to volunteer — but not in orphanages”:

“Voluntourism in orphanages leaves children vulnerable to abuse where child protection regulations are lax, it creates attachment problems in children who become close to short-term visitors and perpetuates the myth that many of these children are orphans in need of adoption.”

Read the full article.

Georgette Mulheir, the CEO of Lumos, the children’s charity founded by JK Rowling also spoke out this month against volunteering in orphanages in an article published on The Pool on May 25th:

“Volunteering in orphanages unfortunately perpetuates the cycle of orphanage care, which decades of research has shown to be harmful to almost every facet of child development,” says Georgette. “Children need consistent, loving adult care, which they can only truly receive from families. Orphanages, even those that are well-run, cannot replace the love of a family.”

Read the full article .

All of these organisations are part of a growing, global movement against orphanage volunteering — building on initiatives from organisations such as Friends International and their Children are not Tourist Attractions campaign.

Learn more about the #StopOrphanTrips campaign and sign the petition to add your voice to the movement.

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